Tag Archives: 1880s

Old New York In Photos #80 – The Main New York Post Office Broadway c. 1887

Main Branch Of New York Post Office Broadway, between Beekman and Ann Streets c. 1887

We return to one of the most striking and photographed structures of 19th century New York. The main branch of the New York Post Office which loomed over the southern end of City Hall Park for nearly 65 years.

We are looking north from Ann Street up towards Broadway (left) and Park Row (right).

The scene is typical of an average day in 1880s New York. We can see several trolleys at rest either having completed their runs or about to start them. Several delivery carts are scattered about nearby. A police officer stands in the middle of Broadway keeping an eye on things. A horse drawn hansom coach and driver are prominent in the foreground. Businessmen make their way about the city, many walking on the Belgian block street rather than the sidewalks. Telegraph poles and wires criss-cross Park Row and Broadway.

The hub of all this activity is the main branch of the New York Post Office, designed by Alfred B. Mullett and opened to the public on Sunday, August 29, 1875. Between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. it was estimated that between 20 – 30,000 people wandered into the new building. They passed slowly through its corridors gawking at the shiny new post office lock boxes, looking into delivery windows and buttonholing anybody who looked like an employee to ask questions.

Architecturally inspired by the French Renaissance style, the building proved to be wildly unpopular from the get go. Among the chief complaints about the Post Office was that it was ugly.

More importantly it was located in the wrong place. Continue reading

How Much and What Types of Alcohol Did Americans Drink In The 19th Century?

19th Century Americans Loved Wine and Liquor, But Their Favorite Alcoholic Beverage Was Beer

Throughout much of the 19th century there were countless temperance movements in the United States to stop “the evils of drinking.”

I just bought a copy of The Liquor Problem in All Ages by Daniel Dorchester (1884). It’s a fascinating look at the history of alcohol. About half of the book covers the efforts to curb or eliminate alcohol consumption. The other half is an engaging history of the manufacture and use of alcohol throughout history across different cultures from all over the world.

One very interesting chart shows which alcoholic beverages Americans were consuming decade by decade from 1792 – 1882 and it is reproduced below (click to enlarge):

In the 1790s American distilled spirits (whiskey, gin, rye, bourbon, etc.) was the most consumed alcoholic liquor. Over 65 million gallons of the hard stuff was consumed by Americans.

As the U.S. population grew and the 1800’s progressed, we see a steady rise in the consumption of American distilled spirits.

American wine, foreign wine and foreign distilled spirits consumption are proportionately increased to some degree from 1792 – 1882.

The rise of malt liquor (in this context the book is referring to beer) consumption explodes in the 1850s nearly matching American spirit consumption. From 1860-1870 beer doubled its popularity from the previous decade. From 1870-1882 beer consumption had reached over 4 billion gallons, more than four times all other alcohol types combined. Continue reading

Historic List Of Every Hotel In New York In 1882

In 1882 A Visitor To New York City Could Stay At Frankenstein’s –

A Complete List of Every (Reputable) Hotel In New York City In 1882

And How They Were Advertised

A few years ago we published a list of every hotel in Manhattan in 1964. That list has proven to be useful for many people.

So we decided to go all the way back to 1882 and provide a list of all the hotels in New York City. According to Phillips’ Business Directory for New York City 1881-1882, there were a total of 165 reputable hotels.

Looking over the list you may notice the street with the most hotels is Broadway. West Street with 26 hotels, was second in number. This is because of the many ships docking along the Hudson. Ritzy Fifth Avenue had only 14 hotels.

There are many sole proprietor hotels and some with names  you would not use today for a hotel, like Frankenstein’s Hotel located at 413 Broome Street and Crooks Hotel at 84 Chatham.

One hotel, Goodiwin’s, was located on 13th Avenue, a defunct avenue name which ran for about a mile alongside the Hudson River waterfront from just below Bank Street up to 26th Street.

The most famous hotels such as Astor House, Fifth Avenue Hotel and Hoffman House, are all gone. So it may come as no surprise, but not one New York City hotel from this 1882 list is still in business.

However a few of the buildings that once were hotels in 1882 remain.

The Hotel St. Stephen was incorporated into the Hotel Albert on East 11the Street. Its original facade vanished in the 1920s and The Albert is now a co-op residential building.

Gilsey House (built 1867) still exists at its original location on Broadway and 29th Street was converted into apartments. The Saint Denis Hotel was drastically altered many years ago and was converted into offices.

A key to the list: , c= corner of; prop= proprietor

Aberdeen, 917 B’way
Aberle Jacob, 145 8th
Albemarle, 1101 B’way
Albion, 133 8th
Anchor Line, 124 West
Anson House, 79 Spring
Anthony, 834 B’way
Ashland House, 315 4th av
Astor House, (Allen & Dam), 225 B’way. On the European plan
Atlantic Hotel, John Gerken, prop., 63 New Bowery
Baar Fred., 228 & 275 West & 164 South
Beauce Edward, 87 Clinton pl
Becker, F. W., 103 Bleecker
Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #71 – Wall Street In 1880 & 1904

Two Views of Wall Street – 1880 & 1904 – With A Story From A 19th Century Stockbroker

Wall Street 1880

Wall Street 1904

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The changes in Wall Street from 1880 to 1904 are clear by comparing these two photographs taken from Broad Street. The center of each photograph is unchanged with historic Trinity Church at the foot of Wall Street and Broadway.

In the 1880 photo the church clock indicates it is 9:40 in the morning. Wall street looks almost provincial with gas lit lamps and small five story buildings, mainly housing insurance companies, brokers and banks. With the wild stock swings in this tumultuous era, many firms were here today, gone tomorrow.

On the far left side behind the gas lamp you can see the advertisement on the stairs leading to 17 Wall Street for stock brokers Taylor Brothers. Directly adjacent is a three story building with a sign above its entrance for Duff and Tienken, gold brokers. Immediately next to Duff and Tienken at 13 Wall Street is the first building owned by the New York Stock Exchange. Looking closely  at the sidewalk in front of most of the buildings, the small circular cylindrical objects are coal chute covers.

Fast forward 24 years later to 1904 and Wall Street is lined with tall buildings. Continue reading

Unusual News Stories From A Small Town Newspaper in 1881

A Horse Commits Suicide, A Man Falls 60 Feet From A Building And Is Uninjured & Instructions On How To Wash Your Face

lowville times bannerInteresting “News” From The Lowville Times In The Summer of 1881

photo: Yester-Images of Lowville NY on postcards by Larry Myers

photo: Yester-Images of Lowville NY on postcards by Larry Myers

Lowville is a sleepy town in Lewis County, upstate New York, about 40 miles east of Lake Ontario and about 90 miles north of Syracuse. Just under 5,000 people call this town home. The most famous person associated with Lowville is probably Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Peter is a veterinarian at Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Lowville.

lowville new york map circa 1870sThe town was founded in 1797 and by 1881 had a population which was a tad over 3,000 people, mostly comprised of assiduous  farmers and merchants.

Like most aspiring small towns across America, Lowville had their own newspaper, a weekly journal comprised of four pages called the Lowville Times which existed from 1876-1884. It featured a smattering of national and international news, but the main feature for the citizens of Lowville and the surrounding towns of Copenhagen, Carthage, Constableville, Martinsburgh and Boonville, was the “local matters” section on page three.

It featured not so much news as it did gossip, illnesses, births, deaths, religious revivals, calls for temperance, arrivals and departures of visitors, and rumblings about town and other community news from larger towns around New York State.

An accurate statement in the newspaper of August 25, 1881 read “A stranger visiting Lowville on Wednesday, the day of the Band Boys’ excursion would have pronounced it a dull place.” What the paper doesn’t say is that this was probably true 360 days out of the year. But in the 19th century it was a beautiful town, with hills and rolling meadows. The pace of life was slow and hard work was rewarded with leisurely pleasures, like regular town picnics featuring music and refreshments.

Besides reporting local mundane items like, ” The picnic was well attended on Saturday last,” and “R.J. Richardson and Frank Doig killed 17 woodcock on Tuesday,” there are stories that are succinct, unusual and interesting.

Here are a selection of short news items with some editorial flair from the summer of 1881:

June 23 – Mr. Albert Eldridge, foreman in the Lowville Manufacturing Co.’s saw mill had a tussel with a hand spike, and we should judge by the looks of his eye that he got the worst of the bargain. Continue reading

Old New York in Photos #20

The Boulevard Looking South From 104th Street

Looking at this tree filled landscape it is hard to believe this is New York City. This idyllic scene was photographed on the morning of July 4, 1888. Until 1899, Broadway above 59th Street was known as The Boulevard.

As you can see, upper Manhattan was still mostly undeveloped in the late 19th century. Besides two carriages in the foreground on the left at 104th Street and a couple of carriages in the background, there is no visible activity happening on the upper west side of Manhattan on our nation’s 112th birthday. Note the horse drawn carriage tracks extending southward in the lower right hand corner of the photo. During the next 15 years, this area would undergo dramatic transformation with the construction of many apartment buildings.

 

Old New York in Photos #13

Herald Square (Before It Became, Herald Square) circa 1888

34th Street where Sixth Avenue and Broadway intersect is known as Herald Square because the New York Herald newspaper had their building located there. It was designed and completed in 1894 by the famous architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White.  The building was torn down in two phases, 1928 and 1940.

This photograph predates the naming of Herald Square. The 71st Infantry Regiment (not their armory, which was on 34th Street and Park Avenue) two story building occupies the triangular spot on the right side that would become the location for the Herald’s building.

Macy’s moved uptown from 14th Street to the Herald Square area in 1902.

The train tracks in the lower right side of the photo are part of the Sixth Avenue Elevated. It was opened in 1876 and closed in 1938 and finally demolished in 1939. There was a much believed rumor that  scrap metal from the elevated was sold to Japan and the Japanese then used that steel to make munitions that were used against the United States in World War II.

Happy Anniversary! Where’s The Snow? – The Great Blizzard of 1888

The Great Blizzard of ’88

For New Yorker’s who were able to obtain a newspaper on March 13, 1888, this is what they saw:

(click image to enlarge)

Starting very late in the evening of March 11 and continuing throughout March 12 and into March 13, 1888, modern New York City was paralyzed with its first stupendous blizzard.   The weather forecast for March 12 called for mild weather!

Over a little more than a 24 hour period mostly between March 12 and 13 New York City received 25 inches of snow, bringing virtually Continue reading